Dissertations and Theses @ UNI


Thesis (UNI Access Only)


African American soldiers--History--20th century; Women soldiers--United States--History--20th century; African American soldiers--Press coverage--History--20th century; Women soldiers--Press coverage--United States--History--20th century; United States. Army. Women's Army Auxiliary Corps--History; United States. Army. Women's Army Corps--History;


During World War II, a revolutionary experiment in regards to race and gender in the military took place at Fort Des Moines, Iowa. In July 1942, the first group of 440 officer trainees for the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC) arrived at the post. Among the first set of prospective officers were 39 African American women. Over the following three years, approximately 6,500 additional African Americans served in the WAAC, and after 1943, the Women's Army Corps (WAC) after the WAAC was reorganized under official Army status. This study serves as an in-depth examination of the issues related to race and gender that these African American women faced during their military service at Fort Des Moines through the use of oral testimonies given by individuals that served at the post. The experiences of these women are best examined through the study of oral histories collected on this topic. Each individual story illustrates how different African American WACs viewed the racism they encountered at Fort Des Moines and how they chose to react to these challenges. Besides looking at personal experiences related to race and gender, this study also examines the role that personal agency played in ensuring some level of fairness regarding racial restrictions at Fort Des Moines, as well as the key role that the civil rights movement played in policing the actions of post leadership in regards to race. Finally, the topic of race and gender in the military in regards to Fort Des Moines is further detailed through an assessment of press coverage, from both local and regional sources and created by white or African American publishers.

Year of Submission


Degree Name

Master of Arts


Department of History

First Advisor

Barbara Cutter

Date Original


Object Description

1 PDF file (iii, 116 pages)



File Format


Off-Campus Download